ReutersWASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday he probably would not keep his holdings in a shipping company with business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and that he had fully and properly disclosed investments.
Pressed on whether he would retain the interest in Navigator Holdings, Ross told Bloomberg Television: “I’ve been actually selling it anyway, but that isn’t because of this.”
Ross, a billionaire investor who is helping to shape Republican President Donald Trump’s trade policy, was criticized when several media outlets reported that he had failed to disclose that one of Navigator’s clients is Russian gas and petrochemical company Sibur.
Sibur’s owners include Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, and Gennady Timchenko, a Putin associate who is subject to U.S. Treasury sanctions.
The information is based on leaked documents from offshore law firm Appleby that are part of the so-called Paradise Papers, which show details of business dealings by wealthy people and institutions ranging from Ross to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and trading firm Glencore. They were obtained by Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and some media outlets and published on Sunday.
Reuters has not independently verified the documents.
The Paradise Papers are the second release of its kind by the ICIJ, which last year published the “Panama Papers,” leaked documents from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca that chronicled a shadowy world of offshore holdings and hidden wealth.
Ross said in multiple media interviews that he had fully disclosed his stake in Navigator Holdings as part of government ethics requirements. “There was disclosure, there is no impropriety and if people draw a contrary conclusion that’s because the papers have twisted the story and made it into something that it’s not there,” Ross told the BBC.
U.S. media said partnerships used by Ross have a 31 percent stake in Navigator Holdings, which was included in Ross’ 57-page public financial disclosure report filed in December, before he officially joined the Trump administration.
Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, said Ross had deceived the public as well as lawmakers who had confirmed his appointment to Trump’s Cabinet after he promised to divest holdings that posed conflicts.Speech